Quote: “911 changed everything — into punctuation.” Jon Stewart.
Figure of Speech: paraprosdokian (pa-ra-prose-dokian), the surprise-ending figure.
“I like to tell people,” says President Bush, “when the final history is written on Iraq, it’ll look just like a comma.” Stewart riffs off that strange line with a paraprosdokian, a figure that takes a cliché and sticks on a surprise ending.
P.G. Wodehouse was a master of it. “She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes,” he said, “and forgot to say when.” Another great paraprosodkianist was Dame Rose Macaulay” “It was a book to kill time for those who like it better dead,” she snarked once.
Once you get the knack for this, you can become an instant wit — like Oscar Wilde, who upon reading Dickens’ Little Curiosity Shop said one “had to have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.”
That’s the same tragic feeling Figaro has when he hears Mr. Bush speak.
Snappy Answer: “What do you mean by ‘final’?”